Wed | May 25, 2016

Gravel Heights residents return after fleeing five years ago

Published:Friday | October 25, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Men from Gravel Heights, St Catherine, moving their belongings under the watchful eye of the police, after gunmen issued a stern warning for residents to leave the community. - File

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

F IVE YEARS after the police supervised a mass exodus of residents from Gravel Heights in St Catherine in the wake of murderous attacks and deadly threats from gunmen, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said the people have returned to their community and are now living in an environment of peace.

Ellington, who made a comprehensive presentation on Jamaica's crime problem and the legislative support needed to more effectively tackle it, told a parliamentary committee that crime has also been contained in the once-feared Tredegar Park community.

In 2010, gunmen slaughtered eight residents in Tredegar Park, an incident that triggered widespread condemnation and calls by various groups for social and other intervention measures.

Ellington told members of the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament on Tuesday that the establishment of small police posts in the two communities was the most "positively impactful community-policing measure applied to traditional crime hotspots".

The commissioner said the force needed the necessary resources to construct between 12 and 20 small police posts in crime hotspots which would significantly reduce gang violence.

"The citizens have said 'Since the officers have been here with us, we have not had one gunshot fired, we have not had one murder, and the police don't have to shoot anybody,' " Ellington told lawmakers.

Community policing

"Gravel Heights - that community was depopulated because of a gang problem. The citizens have returned to the community because the police now live with them, and they are their police," he added.

Member of Parliament for Eastern St Catherine Denise Daley told The Gleaner that crime has been brought under control in the previously violence-prone communities.

She said the residents have been working together to support the efforts of the police in keeping their communities safe.

Daley said the police assigned to the communities were not just protecting residents, but they have also been playing a part in facilitating social interaction between communities.

She said the residents who had fled the area during a wave of criminal assaults years ago had returned and were now inviting others to invest in their communities.